Jun 25, 2019 | Updated: 07:39 AM EDT

Nanobiotechnology: Is It Safe?

Apr 17, 2019 09:18 AM EDT

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Nanobiotechnology: Is It Safe?
(Photo : Image Credit: Getty)

Nowadays technology and biology are beginning to become intertwined in several new and very fascinating ways, an example of which is nanobiotechnology.  Various researches most particularly in the medical field have boasted successful results.  Nanobiotechnology has even been reported to have made much headway in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.  

When technology advances rapidly, knowledge and communication about its safety need to keep pace in order for it to be beneficial instead of being a double-edged sword.  

Some would consider that being concerned about whether nanobiotechnology is safe an over exaggeration since nanoparticles have been around since the beginning of time, naturally occurring in the environment or as by-products of human activity, yet there have been several concerns that have been raised.  Foremost is its solubility and degradation.  What happens to insoluble nanoparticles?  Is there a possibility of them accumulating and reaching toxic levels within our bodies disrupting homeostasis?  What about long term exposure and possible adverse health effects?  In this case, it is the toxicological properties of the core chemical composition of the nanoparticle that is of great concern.  According to various researches, the ones most likely to pose a risk are those that are composed of metals and inorganic metal oxides.

Concerns about particle aggregation and agglomeration have also surfaced in several studies and researches. Individual nanoparticles can come together to form larger particles which could significantly alter how they would normally interact with biological systems.  The action of nanoparticles in such states is relatively unknown and unanticipated problems could arise.

There are a few specific adverse effects that are well documented in the use of nanoparticles.  The effects vary widely, from the malabsorption of nutrients to damaging one's DNA.

An example is the effect of a particular kind of nanoparticle called carbon nanotubes.  It has been proven to cause mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative phosphorylation, and generation of reactive oxygen species (Shvedova et al. 2003). Furthermore, exposure via inhalation of insoluble nanoparticles for a prolonged period may cause cells destruction and biological disorder of tissues (Miller et al. 2005; Mühlfeldetal, 2008) and all these can damage our cells and even our DNA.

To address some of these concerns, several governments and nongovernment organizations have formed research teams and programs tasked in tackling such safety issues.  Still, albeit this there has been no general conclusions made that is applicable to all nanoparticle-based products thus all products and processes that involve them must be considered on a case-by-case basis.

All positive results of nanobiotechnology have been highly documented, yet we must also see that there is a pressing need to not only exercise caution but most importantly investigate further its potential risk to human health. 

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